- Surprisingly, this story is getting harder to annotate only two issues in. It may be that Geoff Johns only wanted to keep the series heavily referential in the first issue; the parallels between this issue and Watchmen #2 aren’t as strong. Nonetheless, there’s some stuff in here worth highlighting.
The Cover: As with the last issue and Watchmen‘s own covers, the covers are a functional part of the story and a close-up of what comes in the first panel of the next page. Here, we’re seeing a close-up of Marionette and Mime’s costumes, with Nostalgia brand cosmetics spilling out of her purse. Nostalgia was the in-universe perfume made by Adrian Veidt’s company. The bonus pages to Watchmen #10 showed an internal memo from Veidt which revealed that, philosophically, Nostalgia was intended to play off of human fears in times of social upheaval and anxiety with their need to take comfort in a “half-imagined past.” In-story, this was Veidt’s financial marketing; as a matter of metatext, this could be a knock at us readers who want an idealized DC Universe such as “Rebirth” has purported to offer.
Page One: The layout here mirrors Watchmen #2’s first page with alternating panels depicting two different scenes. In Watchmen, it alternated between Edward “the Comedian” Blake’s funeral and Laurie Jupiter visiting her mother; here, it alternates between present-day narration by Marionette and a flashback to a robbery she committed.
I don’t recognize the references to the Tell-Tale Man, Dr. Van Gogh, or Bill the Lizard. These are obviously manufactured golden age villains for the Watchmen universe, but I can’t find any indications that they’re modeled on existing characters.
Page Two: Already, the story is deviating from the style of Watchmen #2, which had a nine-panel grid on its second page instead of the single wide panel used here.
“Millennium” references the replacement brand of perfume Veidt launched following his manufactured attack on Manhattan. The advertising theme associated with Millennium pointed towards a hopeful, idealistic future, the kind Veidt attempted to create through the squid attack Marionette is referencing.
Page Four: The jumbo-sized panel above the title was also used in Watchmen #2, although it appeared on page three, not four (further deviating from a straight copy of the original series). The title is taken from a Carson McCullers quote: “We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and the strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” Of course, this is a multi-layered title reference: “places we have never known” nodding to the DC Universe we’ll be entering later this issue; “nostalgia” pointing to Veidt’s perfume, and overall, this being a metatextual statement about the comics industries. McCullers’ quote is pretty indicative of the state of superhero readers: we want something new, but we always gravitate towards things as we remember them.
Page Five: The fact that Marionette keeps miming a gun (and that people are terrified of it) has me wondering if he really does have an invisible gun in his hand, or maybe psychokinetic powers that will let him mime its effects. Notice the bottle of Nostalgia in the bank teller’s purse, along with the cigarettes.
Page Six: Julia’s son is holding an Ozymandias action figure, modeled on Veidt himself. We’ve seen them on Veidt’s desk and in the bonus materials in Watchmen #10. Notably, Veidt mentioned that his action figures were expected to be popular before times of social upheaval and war.
Page Seven: Ewwwww.
Page Eight: The timetable of when this scene takes place hasn’t quite been made clear. However, Jon “Dr. Manhattan” Osterman is seen here wearing only briefs, which he started wearing around 1971. Manhattan shed more and more clothing as he grew detached from humanity, until by 1985 when he just walked around naked. It’s not clear from Watchmen when he finally ditched the briefs, but this scene could be anywhere between 1971 and 1985. I think we’re meant to take it that Marionette and Mime’s son isn’t that old, and they don’t seem to have aged too badly between this flashback and the “present” of 1992, so I’m guessing this is the early 1980s.
Page Nine: In a moment of surprising humanity, Dr. Manhattan spares Mime and Marionette because Marionette is pregnant. This scene may be inspired by Predator 2, where the Predator spares the life of a female cop because it can sense that she’s pregnant.
Page Ten: So now we know that Marionette’s role here is to, apparently, trigger Dr. Manhattan’s sense of humanity in order to convince him to come back to the Watchmen Earth and save the world from the pending nuclear war.
Veidt says he knows Dr. Manhattan “intimately,” both physically and emotionally. That’s a very weird comment and slightly sexually suggestive. It’s been debated that Veidt is homosexual, so Johns throwing out this line of dialogue could be a nod to that.
Rorschach says that he “always wanted to meet” Laurie Juspeczyk, indicating that if he’s somebody from the original Watchmen, they never crossed paths.
The screens going out suggests that the nukes are now going off and that transmissions are being killed as a result. Frankly, if this is the result of an electromagnetic pulse, then Archie shouldn’t even be flying…but whatever, comics.
Page Eleven: We’re back to the rioters from issue #1, with an overt reference to the introduction from the old Superman radio program.
Pages Twelve-Thirteen: There goes a nuke. We now have to wonder if there will be any Earth to come back to if we just saw Manhattan get destroyed (again).
Page Fourteen: At this point, I’m going to say that Doomsday Clock has stopped being a Watchmen sequel and started to be a strict DC Universe story that’s incorporating Watchmen characters. Really, Veidt and Manhattan appear to be all that’s meaningfully left of the Watchmen universe, and at this point, they’re the only characters we’re still seeing in the story. Mime and Marionette are new, and Rorschach is just a guy in the original’s costume.
Anyway, this page is, very transparently, nodding to Watchmen #6, when Rorschach is subjected to an ink blot test by Dr. Malcolm Long (who some suspect the new Rorschach actually is). Like Walter Kovacs before him, Bruce Wayne is faking his way through the test to give the answers the doctor wants to hear.
Page Fifteen: It’s important to note that Doomsday Clock is supposed to be about a year into DC Comics’ future, and that the comics are going to eventually catch up with the story. This page introduces several elements we don’t seem to have seen at DC yet: Lexcorp making a hostile move on Wayne Enterprises, and the rise of a “Superman Theory” concerning the prevalence of super-beings in the United States. Meanwhile, there’s an increase in mass-protests of superheroes. This isn’t a new concept at DC as a whole–Watchmen dealt with this with Dr. Manhattan being the world’s sole superhero (grounded in America), while The Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come also dealt with anti-superhero protests and power imbalances resulting from them.
It’s not clear what’s going on with “Russia and Markovia,” unless this is a nod to our own world’s current concerns with Russia running interference in American news and politics.
“Rex Mason” is the superhero Metamorpho, who will feature heavily in DC’s new superhero line in 2018. “Kirk Langstrom” is the Man-Bat. Both were involved in genetic and scientific experimentation that led to them becoming super-powered, which could be why they’re taking blame for the Superman theory.
Page Sixteen: Archie appears to crash in the same abandoned amusement part used in The Killing Joke, which was also written by Watchmen‘s Alan Moore. It’s been speculated that Mime will disguise himself as the Joker in a future issue; if so, this could be where he gets the inspirtation and costumes.
Page Seventeen: So at this point, we learn that Rorschach’s name is “Reggie.” Because he’s black, it’s been speculated that Rorschach was either Doctor Malcolm Long or the newspaper stand kid, Bernie. If his real name is Reggie, then he would seem to be neither character. There doesn’t seem to be any significant characters from the original series named either Reggie or Reginald.
Page Nineteen: Rorschach is skeptical that he’s on a parallel Earth, until he passes a television running a film marathon on a network he’s never heard of. (Also, Rorschach hasn’t noticed that the city he’s in hasn’t been destroyed.)
“Nathaniel Dusk” is an obscure set of miniseries about a 1930s detective which DC Comics ran back in 1984 and 1985, by Don MacGregor and Gene Conlan. Here, it seems to still exist as a fictional film series in the DC Universe. “Carver Coleman” and his unsolved murder also appear to be fictional, although there may be a slight nod here to the unsolved murder of George Reeves, who played Superman, who died under odd circumstances in 1959.
Veidt has very quickly surmised that Gotham City is years ahead of the Watchmen Earth in some ways and behind in others. In the Watchmen universe, technology progressed faster due to Dr. Manhattan’s existence, so electric cars were more prevalent. However, the DC Universe is set in “real” time, apparently 2017 or 2018, putting it almost exactly 25 years ahead of Watchmen‘s November, 1992.
Page Twenty: I’m not clear what Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and Valadamir Mayakofsky had in common besides being busts on Gotham’s library, although Woolf and Hemingway both claim Russian influence.
Veidt observes that some of the DCU’s superheroes are fictional on the Watchmen Earth. The bonus materials to Watchmen #2 and #5 revealed that DC Comics still existed on the Watchmen Earth, though it was more notable for comics about pirates. Watchmen‘s Hollis Mason admitted to being influenced by Superman after reading Action Comics #1. However, superheroes were never as prevalent in fiction once the Minutemen debuted.
Veidt and Rorschach speculate that Dr. Manhattan could be hiding on the DCU disguised as one of its superheroes. This is a fair guess, especially since there was speculation when “Rebirth” launched that Superman was actually Manhattan. The few glimpses we’ve had of Manhattan in the DCU suggest that he’s either on Mars (as he was in Watchmen) or in some other plane of existence. A not-too-wild guess: maybe he’s hiding out as the Martian Manhunter, who hasn’t been seen much of late. (This connection was made elsewhere, some time ago.)
Veidt and Rorschach split up to meet Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne, respectively. These are kind-of, sort-of their analogues in the DC Universe, although technically, Veidt is based on Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt (whose rights are still retained by his creator’s estate) and Rorschach on the Question.
Pages Twenty-One to Twenty-Two: Rorschach, whoever he is, is observant enough to follow a breeze to the Batcave, which nobody else should be able to locate. The Batcave clock is set to–obviously–Watchmen‘s “three minutes to midnight,” although it’s traditionally supposed to unlock when set to 10:47, the time the Waynes were murdered.
Page Twenty-Three: Batman mentioned earlier that “the twins” were on the loose. Apparently, this was referring to Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who would make a decent pairing with the Mad Hatter, also on the loose.
Page Twenty-Four: In true Luthor fashion, Lex is overworking his staff, and grafitti on his sign suggests that the price for failure is death. Lex has disposal slots for atomic, radioactive, and poisonous waste, indicative of him continuing to research superhuman abilities.
Veidt is admiring Luthor’s ownership of a painting of Jacob Wrestling the Angel by Leon Bonnat. In the Bible, Jacob–the ancestor of the Jewish people–wrestled an angel for a blessing, and was kicked in the hip as a result. For Lex’s purposes, the painting suggests Lex’s struggles to bring himself up to divine levels.
Page Twenty-Five: Mime has an invisible lockpick. Let’s see if he really does have powers, or if he has some other clever means of escaping his shackles.
Page Twenty-Six: Not only is Luthor apparently laughing off Veidt’s “alien squid” plan, but he’s enough of a cynic to believe that humanity would never stayed united. Nevermind that Veidt’s plan was exposed; Lex has always been portrayed as someone who believes in conquest and control, not nudging.
Pages Twenty-Seven and Twenty-Eight: Enter Edward Blake, the Comedian, out for revenge for Veidt having murdered him back in Watchmen #1 (Vedit revealed as the killer in #11). Wait, what? How is Blake alive? If this is an illusion, it’s a good one, since Blake’s bullet penetrates both Veidt and Lex’s clothes.
Meanwhile, the open handcuffs indicate Mime and Marionette have escaped, another mystery that will have to wait for next issue.
Bonus Pages: If you enter “thebulletin.press” into your web browser, you’ll be redirected to these actual pages. “The Bulletin” is a reference to an actual newspaper in the DC Universe, though it’s been seriously underutilized (though it did appear in Action Comics #1).
Anyway, The Bulletin indicates the current (or future) state of the DC Universe, which seems to be mutating into a Watchmen-like world where the Cold War between East and West is about to turn hot due to the presence of American Supermen. The articles are dated December 2017, fairly close to now in the real world. Whether these are current headlines from the DCU, or headlines from prior to Doomsday Clock, isn’t clear. As noted, there’s been trouble at Stagg Industries due to Metamorpho’s existence (Sapphire Stagg is Rex Mason’s girlfriend). There’s also notes of the industrial troubles between LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises. “Big Belly Burger” is a noted fictional food chain in the DCU.
LexCorp has been buying up DC’s fictional companies with ties to metahumans, including Kord Industries, Genetech, and Sunderland Corporation. WayneTech has purchased Dayton Labs (with ties to the Doom Patrol) and Stagg Enterprises. “Tras odart” appears to be a calmative aid produced by Bannerman Chemical, the company which produced Hourman’s Miracolo. The ad is definitely a play on the Nostalgia campaign used on the Watchmen Earth. Overall, we’re getting the sense that the DCU is moving into a similar tense state as the Watchmen world.